Best of 2015: Top Moments

By USA Triathlon | Dec. 28, 2015, 1:07 p.m. (ET)

Gwen Jorgensen

In 2015, U.S. athletes reached new heights, traveled to new places and had a remarkable showing in a major ITU World Championships week held on home soil. Take a look at our top moments of the year, based on stories published on usatriathlon.org.

Jan. 24 — American Triathletes Excel in Historic Cuba Debut
USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program athletes Renée Tomlin and Kirsten Kasper led the way for a group of nearly 30 American triathletes who competed in Havana, Cuba, for the first time since renewed diplomatic relations with the country were announced in December 2014. Barry Siff, President of the USA Triathlon Board of Directors, began pursuing the necessary travel licensing after meeting the Cuban Triathlon Federation President at the annual Pan American Triathlon Congress in June, and the age-group athlete spots made available on the sports-specific travel license were filled within 24 hours.

April 11 — U.S. Women Sweep Podium at World Triathlon Gold Coast
Gwen Jorgensen extended her streak to eight consecutive wins on the prestigious ITU World Triathlon Series circuit, while Sarah True and Katie Zaferes ran to second and third for the second podium sweep in WTS history at ITU World Triathlon Gold Coast.

“I’m super excited. When I saw Gwen and Sarah, I was like, ‘I have to stay here, I want the all-American podium!’ So it gave me a lot of incentive to keep pushing to be with my teammates,” Zaferes said. “It’s so exciting for us, and for the whole country.”

Jorgensen, True and Zaferes combined for a second podium sweep — the first time any nation has logged two WTS podium sweeps in a season — in London on May 31.

April 23 — Nearly $1 Million of Inaugural Women’s Triathlon Grants Awarded to 8 Universities
The first eight collegiate institutions benefiting from a share of the $2.6 million, multi-year Women’s Triathlon Emerging Sport Grant were announced. Created to drive the establishment of NCAA women’s varsity triathlon programs, this funding program is the first of its kind ever offered to an NCAA Emerging Sport. At year-end 2015, 11 schools have received grant funding from USA Triathlon.

May 12 — Tri it Forward Launches
Tri it Forward was announced as a way to motivate and inspire new athletes while increasing multisport participation and promoting healthy lifestyles across the United States. The program aims to increase triathlon participation by encouraging others to do their first event through a Triathlon Tag system. Once tagged, the program supports new athletes on a transformative fitness journey by inviting and integrating those athletes into the unique triathlon community. Tri it Forward is based on the “pay it forward” concept, in which one person performs an unsolicited good deed for another, and in turn, that recipient helps someone else. Learn more at usatriathlon.org/triitforward.

July 12 — Kevin McDowell Sprints to Pan American Games Silver
Kevin McDowell won Team USA’s first silver medal of the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Ontario, finishing second in a sprint finish to Mexico’s Crisanto Grajales. It was McDowell’s second career silver in a major Games event, his first coming in 2010 when he picked up the silver in the inaugural Youth Olympic Games. The medal also is the 11th for USA Triathlon in Pan American Games history, the most for any country since the sport was added to the program in 1995. Chelsea Burns finished fifth in the women’s race, held on July 11.

Aug. 1 — 6 U.S. Paratriathletes Provisionally Qualify for Paralympic Games
Krige Schabort (PT1), Mark Barr (PT2), Hailey Danisewicz (PT2), Chris Hammer (PT4), Grace Norman (PT4) and Patricia Walsh (PT5) met the qualification standards to provisionally secure the first spots on the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team at the Rio de Janeiro ITU World Paratriathlon Event held at Copacabana Beach. All six athletes finished as the top American in their respective sport classes, while also meeting the requirement to be within the top one-third of race starters in each sport class and within 5 percent of the winner’s time. Triathlon will make its Paralympic Games debut on Sept. 10-11, 2016.

Aug. 2 — Gwen Jorgensen, Sarah True Qualify for Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games
2012 Olympians Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah True punched their tickets for the 2016 Olympic Games at the 2015 ITU World Olympic Qualification Event, held at Copacabana Beach. As the top-two Americans within the top eight, Jorgensen (first) and True (fourth) met the qualification standards outlined by USA Triathlon earlier in 2015, and Jorgensen’s victory also confirmed a National Federation spot for the U.S. Jorgensen, 29, and True, 33, become the sixth and seventh members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, joining pentathlete Nathan Schrimsher, table tennis player Yue ”Jennifer” Wu, and open water swimmers Jordan Wilimovsky, Sean Ryan and Haley Anderson, all of whom qualified in July.

September — The U.S. Hosts the World in Chicago; Team USA Shines
The world’s best athletes converged on Chicago’s Grant Park from Sept. 15-19 for the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final and World Championships. Nearly 1,200 U.S. age-group athletes competed in the Aquathlon, Sprint Triathlon and Standard Triathlon World Championships, marking the largest Team USA to date. Over three days of age-group competition, Team USA earned 110 total medals, including 42 gold.

The U.S. claimed 121 total medals in Chicago, including a bronze from elite Matt McElroy in Aquathlon Worlds, silver from Taylor Knibb in the women’s Junior World Championships, and seven total medals won by paratriathletes led by world champions Kendall Gretsch (PT1), Aaron Scheidies (PT5) and Allysa Seely (PT2).

Sept. 18 — Gwen Jorgensen Captures Second Straight World Title, Sarah True Earns Bronze
Gwen Jorgensen broke away from the field in the final 2.5 kilometers of the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Chicago to claim her second straight world title and her 12th consecutive win in the ITU World Triathlon Series. Jorgensen becomes the first U.S. woman to win back-to-back triathlon world championships and the second U.S. woman to win two career titles, placing her in the company of Hall-of-Famer Karen Smyers. True’s seventh place in Chicago led to her third world championships podium since 2011 with the bronze medal; only two-time Olympian Laura Bennett holds more world championships medals with four.

Oct. 10 — 3 Americans Post Top-5 Finishes in Kona
Tim O’Donnell landed on the podium for the first time at the IRONMAN World Championship, finishing third for his best finish to date. Andy Potts grabbed fourth place for the second straight year, and Heather Jackson was the best U.S. finisher in the women’s race, making her debut in Kona with a fifth-place effort. In addition to the outstanding effort from the elites, 10 Americans won their respective age groups.

Nov. 2 — Josiah Middaugh Wins First XTERRA Worlds Title, Emma Garrard Takes Bronze
Josiah Middaugh led the way for the U.S., winning the 20th XTERRA World Championship while Emma Garrard was third. It was the first XTERRA Worlds title for Middaugh after 15 attempts, and he becomes the first American to win Worlds since Michael Tobin back in 2000. The bronze medal is Garrard’s best finish at XTERRA Worlds, following a fourth-place finish last year and fifth in 2013. Ten U.S. age-group off-road athletes also won world titles.

Nov. 7-8 — Draft-Legal Triathlon and Duathlon Hit Clermont, Florida
The second Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship was held at Lake Louisa State Park where an at-capacity field of 80 women competed in the draft-legal 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike, 5-kilometer run event, following the competition structure and rules proposed for use at the collegiate level when triathlon is granted official NCAA sport status.  Abby Levene of Colorado won the overall title by more than a minute ahead of junior elite Jocelyn Bonney and Stanford’s Marissa Ferrante, who finished second and third respectively.

Following the collegiate event, age-groupers competed in the first-ever draft-legal world championship qualifiers for triathlon and duathlon, allowing top finishers an opportunity to qualify for the 2016 ITU Sprint Triathlon World Championships in Cozumel, Mexico, and the 2016 Sprint Duathlon World Championships in Aviles, Spain, both of which will be draft-legal for the first time. Thomas Barton and Kirsten Sass raced to back-to-back victories over two days of competition, claiming gold in both disciplines.